The law in brief: E-learning for training purposes – is it legal?

Many managers use e-learning to regularly inform and train their team members.

The advantages are obvious:

  • Employees can work on the modules whenever they have time.
  • A learning management system lets managers track employees’ learning progress.
  • Employees cannot miss training (due to vacation or sickness).
  • Especially during a pandemic: no need to find that one day that works for all learners.

However, do you know what you are allowed to teach with an e-learning solution?

Training content should always be specific to the workplace (see DGUV Regulation 100-001). It’s best to start with e-learning modules that are more general in nature. This approach works well for office staff and for topics such as working safely in the field or good hygiene practices during a pandemic.

  • Technical content can be effectively integrated, too, including:
  • Electrical hazards
  • Hazardous substances
  • Walking safety
  • Personal protective equipment
  • Hazard awareness

The important point is not to neglect specific hazards. E-learning can cover some of them: Some systems allow content to be tailored to a company’s needs. The training material can be quickly created or adapted and used for external service providers as well.

Additional verbal instructions may be helpful or required in many cases, such as when teaching specific safe work practices for using company tools and equipment. Also, the German Hazardous Substances Regulation Ordinance in § 14 explicitly requires that employees be verbally educated on all current hazards and appropriate safety measures relating to hazardous substances.

Hands-on exercises may also be useful or mandatory, for example, using PPE to prevent falls.

DGUV Regulation 100-001 requires comprehension testing of material. This is where electronic training shines: A short test with a question pool integrates easily with the e-learning system, with correct answers documented in the learning management system.

Conclusion:

E-learning is a legal method of training employees. However, it cannot and should not completely replace verbal instructions where employees can communicate with their supervisors. Employees receive answers to questions about training content or additional verbal explanations as needed. The goal should be to find the right balance between verbal instruction and e-learning (“blended learning”) in order to achieve maximum efficiency and legal compliance in your training operations.

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